When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, my doctor told me I could have a "relatively normal" life. Diabetes, he promised, would hardly slow me down. While his words were meant to reassure me, I was dumbstruck. I didn't want to live a relatively normal life with diabetes; I wanted an extraordinary one.
Managing Diabetes in Different Environments
Within a year of hearing those words, I climbed the first of many mountains, Washington State's Mt. Rainier, which at 14,410 feet is the highest volcano in the contiguous United States. Afraid to even take my insulin out of my backpack for fear I'd drop it onto the icy glacier and never see it again, I quickly learned how to cope with brutal environments with diabetes. I wrapped my insulin vials in neoprene sleeves to keep it from freezing (transferring half the insulin into a separate vial just in case), carried extra diabetes supplies in duplicate locations and lined my pockets with glucose and emergency food.
When I was finally able to check my blood sugar at the summit, and realized how very high it had become, I learned quickly how to administer insulin in the craziest of locations. I've given myself shots while harnessed in on the side of a cliff, in an eddy while kayaking the Colorado River and on the beach between surfing sessions. Now that I'm on the Omnipod insulin pump, those days of insulin vials and needles thankfully are over.
Later that first year, I became a ski patroller and Emergency Medical Technician, trained to handle other's emergencies. The job can be demanding both physically and mentally, and managing my blood sugars during stressful rescues can be challenging. I learned to keep my own diabetes in control by helping others.
Handling Anything with Diabetes
When my husband was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and was told he'd need a liver transplant to survive, I dug deep to find the strength to get us both through the ordeal. My experience on the slopes, as well as handling my diabetes, gave me the needed expertise as well as the confidence to know I could handle anything. My memoir, “THE NEXT 15 MINUTES,” takes the reader on a wild ride of salvation, which ultimately puts me, and my diabetes, to the test.
As a person with diabetes, I've learned to slow down and handle crises. When low blood sugar strikes while I'm on the side of the mountain or in a river, I can't panic. Instead, I must calmly and carefully identify and treat the low. I've applied this same skill to other parts of my life.
Currently, I'm living the extraordinary life I'd always hoped I could. Thanks to advances in diabetes care, my diabetes is easier than ever to manage and I look forward to the next big adventure.